Updated: May 15, 2020
This weekend I had the enormous privilege and honour to be part of the TRIsolation show, a series of talks on how the triathlon industry responds to the Coronavirus. It had an absolutely amazing line up including pros (George Peaswood, Lucy Gossage, Nikki Bartlett...), some of the top triathlon coaches (including the legend Joe Friel), and most importantly for me, a great mix of sports scientists, nutritionalists, doctors all talking about training in a time of Corona - how to adapt, maximise benefits and what the future holds.
The talks are all available for free online now, just register, and don’t forget to make your donation to NHS charities, before viewing.
For me the overriding theme from across the whole day was:
>> Focus on building a healthy body.
>> Despite the fact most of us are the type of person who wants to be pushing hard the whole time, now is NOT the time to be focusing on hard training.
>> Instead focus on the bigger picture, both in terms of risk vs rewards, but also a wider version of your typical training focus. This includes diet, recovery, mental resilience, strength and conditioning and mobility.
Here’s the very quick round up of some of the top themes and key bits of advice from the day:
The pros session:
The pros rounded up their session with their top tips for getting through this period which included
keeping it fun
focusing on goals outside triathlon
making time for the stuff that we don’t usually have time for
Mind, body and nutrition:
Protecting your immunity:
Vitamin D is key – low vitamin D levels are already linked to decreased immunity, as well as being key for athletic performance. Whilst the research is still being done, and nothing is conclusively proven yet, there seems to be evidence that in terms of Covid19, vitamin D is important to protect the immune system and especially against inflammation in the lungs.
>> Public Health England recommends we take 10mg a day
To know if you’re short of the recommended blood levels you’d need a blood test, which is less practical right now, but most of us won’t get more than 3.5mg from our diet, primarily from oily fish, mushrooms and eggs, and to get the remaining dose from sunlight we’d need to be consistently outside for around 4 hours a day, every day, around the middle of the day) (Note: in the UK half the year the sun is at the wrong angle for any vitamin D, and sun screen will affect the absorption).
As always, if taking supplements, be aware of the risk of contamination (illegal supplements) and use those carrying Informed Sport logo (and keep batch number details) if concerned.
Food quality: It’s not just about macro nutrients (i.e. carbs, protein, fat) but also micro nutrients, especially vitamins A and C – think about food choices and quality, make sure you get your 5 a day and maximise the number of different coloured vegetables and quality of your carbs (e.g. whole grains rather than white pasta, swapping a potato for a sweet potato could give you all your vitamin A needs for the day). Frozen fruit and veg is fine and convenient, have some frozen spinach in the freezer to add to meals.
Body composition - Now is not the time to be focusing on weight loss, ensure you are fuelling your training sufficiently.
Specific recommendations on Covid19
Above/below the neck rule is irrelevant in this case.
Be aware of RHR rising even a few beats, this is often the precursor to symptoms developing.
>> If you have any symptoms, even if minor, don’t train at all for 10 days after the first symptom (even if you feel better) (just adding that in case you're speaking to others)
>> If experiencing symptoms try sleeping on your front
>> Once you are clear of ALL symptoms, wait another 7 days before starting training again
>> Then take at least 1-2 weeks to gradually return to training
(for more see British Athletics summary of guidance)
>> Even if it just feels like something light, or ‘just a cough’ it is not worth the risk.
A few more days off training is completely insignificant, compared with the potential risk of doing anything that might make it worse. Most people with symptoms report feeling better for a few days before a second, and much worse wave.
There is still a lot we dont know about the long terms impacts.
HRV readings show that HRV can be affected for up to 2 months after ‘recovering’ from Corona, despite feeling ok.
Further support for taking vitamin D supplement, plus potentially vitamin C (500mg, up to 1000mg if ill)
Omega 3 and polyphenols and anti-oxidants (fruit and berries etc) can support a strong immune system.
Be careful of seeking control over diet in place of control over other factors that are now out of our control.
Avoiding injury - There’s less access to physios etc at the moment, so we need to be particularly careful. Tendons like consistency – be particularly careful about big or sudden increases or decreases in training load. If changing load be very careful and ensure it's supported by associated S&C.
Mental health: Recognising the cross over between triathlon and life in terms of mental skills – we’re used to things being tough and we’re resilient, how can we learn to apply this mindset into the wider areas of our life. Can we use the slowing down in a lot of life right now to practice mindfulness. Be aware of the risks of social media, especially Strava – there’s much more to being a great triathlete than the KOM/QOM or hours racked up.
Swimming: Recognise and accept that we’ll lose fitness, but to focus on the building blocks; mobility, core strength and connecting the power from shoulder to hip as well as upper body strength work.
Goals: How to find the sense of achievement we get from racing. The importance of goal setting and re-setting – what are you actually training for and is the training coherent with this. Avoid the ‘more is better’ mindset. What do we train for? For racing or for enjoyment (in training and enjoying the world around us). Learning to train on feel rather than numbers.